CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The LSU women’s basketball team was picked to finish seventh in the Southeastern Conference by a select media panel from around the league and the nation.
The results of the poll were announced Tuesday as SEC Tipoff ’15, the league’s media days, got underway. Women’s coaches and players took center stage on the first day Tuesday with the men following Wednesday.
LSU, which has reached the Sweet 16 in the NCAA women’s tournament the past two seasons under fourth-year coach Nikki Caldwell, was tabbed to finish right in the middle of the 14-team conference race.
The Lady Tigers tallied 122 points, putting them behind preseason favorite South Carolina (210), Tennessee (191), Texas A&M (179), Kentucky (154), Vanderbilt (150) and Georgia (132).
The second half had Mississippi State (108), Florida (96), Auburn (83), Arkansas and Missouri (77), Alabama (74) and Ole Miss (21). Points are awarded on a 14-13-12-11-10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis from each ballot cast.
South Carolina returns all five starters from a 29-5 season a year ago, including preseason player of the year Tiffany Mitchell, and the Gamecocks’ 2014 recruiting class was ranked second in the nation.
Joining Mitchell on the preseason all-league team are teammate Aleighsa Welch and Tennessee’s Isabelle Harrison, who also received player of the year votes, Mississippi State’s Martha Atwal and Texas A&M’s Courtney Walker.
The men’s poll and preseason all-conference team will be announced Wednesday.
Preseason polls and rankings were the last thing on Caldwell’s mind when she met the media Tuesday afternoon.
The Lady Tigers’ coach explained she doesn’t worry about things she can’t control, so being picked to finish seventh in the league wasn’t a major concern.
“I have no control over those things and I tell our team every day, ‘Let’s control the controllables,’” Caldwell said. “We don’t even talk to our team about where we’re ranked. I’m more concerned about where we’re going to finish than where we start.”
Accompanying Caldwell to Charlotte were Lady Tigers guards Raigyne Moncrief and DaShawn Harden.
Moncrief, one of the nation’s top recruits a year ago, continues to make strides from a torn left ACL that she suffered in LSU’s NCAA tournament opener last March. Despite being just six months removed from surgery, she hasn’t been limited in the first two weeks of practice.
“In the summer, I did very little on the court,” said Moncrief, who averaged 10.1 points and 4.5 rebounds a game as a freshman. “When practice started (Oct. 9), I was full-go.”
Moncrief said she’s only missed one practice to rest the knee, and that was at the insistence of athletic trainer Micki Collins.
“She’s close (to being 100 percent),” Caldwell said. “She’s pushing tempo, running the floor, defending, jumping, leaping. She’s doing everything she was doing prior to the injury.”
Tigers on the way
The men will have their turn Wednesday when SEC Tipoff ’15 concludes with coaches and players from all 14 league schools meeting with media.
In addition to Tigers coach Johnny Jones, sophomore forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin will represent LSU.
Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter @MicklesAdvocate.